The daily Nation published a very frightening article on November 1st about Radical Changes to upgrade city bus terminus. The writer was referring to a notice published in the same paper earlier in the week. According to the notice aimed at testing the readiness of matatu operators to comply with rules designed to improve Kenya’s chaotic transport sector, “Matatus plying the 11 routes that end their journey at railways bus terminus will have to apply for a special sticker that will enable them to go past barriers manned by city council of Nairobi staff.
Currently, all 14 seater Matatus that enter the terminus pay 2.200Ksh parking fee every month; buses and mini-bus pay a much highier fee; with the new requirements, they will now have to pay extra as they have been asked to “source for alternative holding ground for vehicles waiting to access the terminus.”
There has been too much attention been focused on the Matatu industry lately; and it is sad to know that a bill has been signed that will most likely do more harm than the good it is intended to. The new set of traffic laws that were passed the other day can win donor funding; but on the ground, it also shows how our leaders are willing to sacrifice most of us to the gallows, if only to look good in the eyes of international community. As much as the elite have the opportunity to civilize themselves and their dependants, it’s not the same for millions of us who have to do that EXTRA hard work, to stay in the race. The new laws are good especially for those who own vehicles but have hired the drivers to do the dirty work for them.
One law in particular says that- any driver found driving a motor vehicle without a driving license will be jailed for 10yrs or fined 500.000 [6250 US Dollars]or both. I don’t know if this will include those who forget to carry or those who lose them to carjackers like is the case with most of us in the transport sector. Police officers also hold on to our licenses as security that you will come back and clear some illegal debt. I wonder how we will explain that to the next cop who wants to see the paper before we paid the first one.
On a Televised interview aired by Citizen TV, the deputy spokes man of the Kenya police admitted that there was a higher possibility that corruption will increase within the traffic officers as they will be the ones to implement the laws. He did not seem to agree if not see much sense in the new acts; He said much of this will be worked on when they have the Inspector General as some of the issues still need a lot of deliberations before they can be fully implemented. I’m happy with the current policing of the industry especially during the past 2-3 yrs as many laws have been passed that could have otherwise choked the industry but the police have ignored them or translated them to fit the real focus which is safety and smooth follow of traffic.
I sincerely hoped that the government will focus more on upgrading the roads to meet international standard i.e.- build pedestrians walks, bicycle lanes, bus stops and most important mark the roads and put up road signs before bringing in international traffic laws. Meaningful change will only come when we stop blaming the Matatus for all the road carnage and focus on the real cause of this accident; which in my opinion is the ministry responsible for building roads and also the transport ministry. Private developers have built commercial houses on road reserves encroaching sidewalks forcing pedestrians to walk the roads- instead of the government reclaiming the land and building a safe passage for pedestrians, they have allowed the developers to make their kill and warned motorists that they will be jailed for life if they hit the pedestrians walking on the tarmac.
That brings me to my question: Is the truth too much to handle????? Why not forget publicity and impressing foreigners for a minute and really take responsible steps that can bring meaningful results? All this noise and politics about Road carnage and road safety will not make any difference; it will only popularize sponsors brands for their commercial benefit. What we need is the ministry to fix the roads-mark them and put road signs. And then let the government only license competent drivers. We are not the problem- we are the victims of the situation.